In the midst of our 100 Men 100 Days campaign, we don’t want to overlook the importance of all the amazing men who already volunteer in our Clubs, schools and in the community. We are so pleased to introduce to you, one of these exceptional mentors, James Bures. During last year’s 100 Men 100 Days campaign, James decided it was time to get involved. Throughout his life, James has enjoyed being an active member of his community, specifically volunteering in hospitals and senior`s homes. But during his five-year combined degree at the University of Alberta he decided to take a few years off volunteering and focus on school. Until last year. With his degrees in Classical Music and Education, he wanted a volunteer opportunity that allowed him to work with school-aged kids.
“I came across BGCBigs online and thought it would be a really cool experience,” James explained. “But I couldn’t decide if I wanted to try the one-to-one mentoring programs or group mentoring in a Club.”
In the end, he decided to try the club atmosphere first. As a self-proclaimed shy and quiet person, he figured it would be the best place for him to get his feet wet. “I knew I wasn’t going to be completely on my own, and that there would be lots of kids and I could float around between them. And there are other volunteers and staff as well so there is always support if the kids are misbehaving or if I need help with something.”
The first day at the Club was a bit overwhelming for him. “I didn’t know what to expect walking in there for the first time,” James admits. ‘How many people will there be? What do I have to do? How long should I stay? But really quickly I got to know everyone. And all of the kids were opening and welcoming.”
James remembers it was raining that day so they played inside basketball and Four Square. He ended up staying for a few hours. “After I settled in it went really well. The kids who knew me, advocated for me and would introduce me to the other kids,” he says.
Since that first day, James has been an active volunteer for a year and he enjoys volunteering once a week. “There are always days where I don’t want to go in,” James says. “But I always leave feeling satisfied that I had a good time and that it was worthwhile.”
James appreciates the flexibility and variety that he gets to experience in the Club. Usually the Club volunteers take turns leading an activity, so if he isn’t in the mood to lead, another volunteer or staff member will step up, and vice versa. When there’s free time James can wander around and spend ten minutes or so with each group – he plays basketball, computers, video games, or just sits and chats with the kids.
“One day, I was helping a group of three kids do their math homework,” James recalls. “And at first I was looking at it and I didn’t understand how they were teaching it in school. So I tried to show them the way I was taught it in school – without a calculator. And they got it!”
The learnings in the Clubs go both ways. According to James, just the other day a 10 year old boy got him to think about a subject in a new way. And he feels like he is having an impact on the kids too.
“When I think about when I was growing up, I didn’t have this kind of experience,” he explains. “I didn’t have somewhere to go after school, with my friends; I was left to my own devices. But if I had had something like this maybe I would be more comfortable as a person. Instead of going home and being bored I would have loved to have somewhere to go to do something meaningful and fun after school.”
James also believes it’s important for the kids to have the staff and volunteers as friends and mentors. “I think that spending time with them is having an impact. But it’s something more subtle over time, and you realize ‘oh yeah, maybe this is having a positive influence on someone’.”
A male role model is especially important considering there is a higher number of women as teachers in secondary schools. “It’s important that the kids have a balance of the male and female role models,” James says. “And regardless of whether you’re a man or woman it’s the same rewarding experience for you and it means a whole lot to these kids.
“What impresses me the most,” he continues. “Is that even though I’m just a volunteer, the staff, kids, and their parents all treat me like I’m part of the family.”
Think you’d like to volunteer with BGCBigs? We’ve love to have you and we’ll work with you to match you to the program that’s right for you! Click here to apply or here to learn about each volunteer opportunity.